The Rise of the Bottom-Up Economy

There’s a revolution in full swing that is changing the way ordinary Americans make a living.  From internet commerce technology has sprung forth the Bottom-Up Economic Revolution. It’s dramatically altered the way business is conducted by both the seller and consumer.  Front and center in this shift is platform businesses – small business cloud-based companies, online marketplaces and crowdfunding sites.  They bring buyers and sellers, as well as non-profits and donors together in new ways to interact and do business.  

Now the average Joe and Jane can create income, and in many cases a livelihood, with relative ease compared to the offline brick and mortar approach to business.  Thanks to websites designed to bring sellers and buyers together in new ways, the possibilities are virtually endless. You can find homeowners in need of your maintenance services sell your own custom made clothing, rent a room on Airbnb, to name just a few opportunities.  Need capital? Funding opportunities are also available and could be just a few clicks away at crowdfunding sites for the everyday entrepreneur.

This new group of self-employed individuals who are making part or all of their income online are fueling the Bottom-Up Economic Revolution like never before.  As traditional employment opportunities continue to be in flux, these proprietors are increasing at a fast pace.  The numbers tell it like it is:

  • Proprietors have steadily increased every year since 2000, in terms of a percentage of total US employment.

  • Between 2000 and 2012, the US labor force lost over a million private wage and salary workers yet in that same time frame, over 10 million working proprietors entered the marketplace.  Furthermore, 21% of working Americans received at least part of their income through self-employment.

  • Enterprises with over 1000 employees lost over 1 million employees between 2002 and 2012 while enterprises with less than 25 people gained over a 1.5 million employees—nearly half of those 1.5 million employees are with enterprises that had 5 or fewer total employees.

As the Bottom-Up Economic Revolution grows, we see two categories of platform companies driving it: marketplaces and cloud-based small business software.  These small business platforms must provide not just an excellent overall user experience, but also an easy-to-implement payment experience that protects the consumer, the seller, and the platform business itself from risk and fraud.

This new wave of ecommerce is perfectly complemented by WePay.  Unlike other general-purpose payment APIs, WePay is designed for platforms. Our patent pending risk engine technology, Veda allows us to underwrite businesses of any size and shape.  Platforms can feel confident that a robust system of fraud protection is in place to protect them as a payments process is weaved into their product seamlessly.

The Bottom-Up Economic Revolution represents a massive opportunity for enterprises that can successfully bring three key ingredients together:  new ideas for solving old ways of doing things, ample drive and a competent team. We plan to keep the Revolution booming by continuing to support the backend transactions in the world of e-commerce.   It’s an exciting time and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see where the creative players in this vital new economy head next.

Team Topia Uses WePay to Create World’s Friendliest Swim Team Management Platform


When Team Topia founder Mason Hale first got involved with swim teams, he wasn’t thinking about building a sports management software business. Rather, he knew two things: his kids loved to swim, and as the family “computer guy”, it was his job to support their team with technology.  

At the time, Mason had been chief technologist at the cutting-edge product design firm Frog Design for over eight years, so he thought “How hard could it be?”

Really hard, it turned out.

Like many swim teams, Mason’s daughter’s group had more than 200 members, so keeping everything organized was a massive logistics undertaking. To make matters worse, they were managing things with a clunky software package that was designed in the 1990s, the same as 90 percent of swim teams in the country.  Mason quickly found himself spending more than 15 hours a week just keeping track of swim meet information.  Add to that the need to coordinate the army of volunteers needed to run each swim meet, and it was a major headache.

Being a developer, Mason turned to technology and created a solution using Ruby on Rails. He built SwimTopia initially as a side project and hosted it on Heroku. People loved it.  Parents were happy, swim meets were running smoothly, and preparations now took minutes instead of hours. Mason knew a business opportunity when he saw it. Team Topia was born.

In 2011 Mason’s company was accepted into the Capital Factory startup incubator program and won the top prize at the Capital Factory Demo Day pitch competition. After that, Mason was ready to go big.

One of the the top priorities was finding a flexible payment platform that would scale to meet his future business needs. Mason initially started with PayPal, but quickly realized it wasn’t quite right for his business model. PayPal’s complicated onboarding process, which asks for a lot of information up front, stymied efforts to sign up new accounts, and some parents found the checkout process confusing. The difficulties were enough that Mason decided to look for a payments processor that more closely aligned with his vision for SwimTopia as “the world’s friendliest swim team management platform.”

Mason wanted to help swim teams across the US manage not just their meet schedules but also to collect their membership dues and support their fundraising efforts by enabling them to sell branded merchandise, swimsuits and other gear online.  Above all, the user experience was top priority. He needed it to be as seamless as possible with every action from account setup to checkout taking place inside the SwimTopia application.

When Mason looked at WePay, it felt right.  

“SwimTopia is a platform and WePay really caters to developers building platforms,” he said.  “My customers can now setup a new WePay account right from within SwimTopia. By doing so, I was able to replace a page of step-by-step setup instructions and with a single button and a streamlined, integrated experience.”

 Team Store   SwimTopia.png

WePay enables the SwimTopia Online Team Store customer to:

  • Sell any item to their members without leaving the SwimTopia application;

  • Offer items for sale on any page of the web site;

  • Check out with most major credit cards;

  • Assign processing fees to be paid by each customer or team.

Additional Resources

12 data sources that help WePay detect and fight fraud

Online businesses in the US lose an estimated $3.5 billion to fraud every year. That number is only set to rise as long as we keep having security breaches like the Target hack, which put an estimated 40 million credit card numbers in the hands of fraudsters.

The payments industry has typically fought fraud by making merchants go through a lengthy and involved process to prove they aren’t risky before they accept their first cent from customers. Yet in today’s digital economy, that just doesn’t cut it anymore. The platform businesses that are the real drivers of growth in the new economy — things like crowdfunding sites, marketplaces, and small business software providers — need to sign on new merchants fast and start processing payments immediately. That requires a new kind of payments system — one that’s faster, more secure, more flexible and backed by more machine intelligence than ever before.

At WePay, we’re building that payments system. It’s a tough engineering challenge, something our VP of Risk John Canfield laid out recently for attendees to Q Conference in New York at his talk “Leveraging Big Data for Payment Risk Management.”

You can watch the whole talk here, but one of the more interesting bits was John’s take on what data to actually look at — a bigger problem than you might think. Machine intelligence approaches rely on having data points that are actually predictive; so choosing what to focus on is an important first step in creating a system for assessing payment risk.

Here are some of the data points that can help a payments company assess risk:

·    Know Your Customer, or KYC info: This is the classic information like name, address, date of birth, and social security number that is required by all banks to open a merchant account. Everyone requires this because it works — although fraudsters can gain this info too, so it can’t be the whole of a fraud assessment strategy. It’s good for a first pass —You can check it against records held by companies like Experian and Equifax to verify that a person by that name actually exists.

·    Traditional business credit reports: Assuming you can get a business credit report, this is a great source of insight into a potential merchant. The problem is that this isn’t usually available in the Bottom Up Economy, the fast-growing e-commerce space in which “merchants” are often individuals able to punch above their weight thanks to small business software, online marketplaces and crowdfunding. If a merchant isn’t a traditional business, then the credit reporting bureaus generally won’t have the same level of data about them.

·    Business License: Again, this isn’t going to be available for many payers. But if a business is registered, that’s a signifier that it might be legitimate.

·    Business Social Media: This varies from business to business because businesses use social media to greater or lesser extent. However, if a business has a social media profile, that can be a good thing to look at. It’s not a 100 percent signal, because it can be faked, but if a social profile has accumulated a great deal of likes or followers over a long period of time and sees regular engagement, that’s an excellent sign of legitimacy.

·    Editorial reviews and ratings: This can be even better than social media, because these are outsiders evaluating a business, and even businesses that aren’t especially active on the Internet might have garnered reviews or been mentioned in newspaper articles. The issue is that it can be a difficult process to gather this info, because it’s not usually packaged neatly into an API for you. Often, checking for this can be a very manual process, but parts of it can be automated as you get a better understanding of the sources for this data.

·    Street view addresses: Also a manual process that can be automated somewhat later on. Street view is useful because it allows a payment company to answer a simple question: does the building at the address the merchant has given me look like it matches the kind of business they’re representing themselves as? A word of warning, however: small businesses very often try to make themselves look larger than they are by doing things like giving a mail forwarding address that belongs to a large, professional looking building.

·    Personal Facebook pages: A person’s social media profile is an incredibly valuable source of data — it establishes their identity online in much the same way a drivers license does in the offline world. What’s more, it’s hard to fake. Even a person who doesn’t use Facebook much will look very different from a fraudster — they’ll likely have had the account for years and have many followers that have built up over time. This is doubly so if you can confirm the merchant has control of this account.

·    Device ID: These are newer technologies that try to tie a transaction to a specific device offered by companies like ThreatMetrix, Iovation and Experian/41st Parameter. This goes beyond just looking at the IP address — these technologies look at a variety of data points to establish a unique fingerprint for each device. And that’s useful because it lets one establish blacklists, allowing one to prevent further fraud from the same device once fraud is found.

·      Google: When you do a Google query for the name of the business or individual, does it return results? Is their website or social profile in those results? It’s a simple test, but still useful. Google search results provide 3rd party verification of the existence of a business or an individual, and they could lead to other potentially useful sources of data like reviews and blog posts about the business.

·      Control Verification: This requires users to take an additional step to sign into an account by entering a code sent to their cell phone. This protects against takeover attacks, because in order to takeover an account an attacker would have to have the victim’s cell phone in addition to their username and password. Passing a control verification is thus a very good sign, from a risk perspective.

·      Transaction History: Not all sources of data are external. If a merchant has been using your service for a decent period of time, then their transaction history is an excellent source of insight. Fraud might look very different than the baseline behavior you see from this merchant — think a Halloween store that normally does all of its business in October which suddenly sees a spike of transactions in March. It can also give you early warning that a merchant is starting to go down hill. If a usually good merchant starts generating an unusual number of chargebacks, that’s a sign that fraud or something like it is occurring.

·      Partner Data: It turns out that most platform companies actually have a lot of data about the people using their service that would be very helpful for a payments company trying to assess fraud risk — things like the kind of payment being made, what’s actually being bought, how the service will be delivered and 3rd party data that they’ve collected themselves. Yet tradition payments vendors have had no way to see this data, so they can’t use it.  

WePay’s answer to that problem is Veda Risk API, our patented method for collecting a range of data from our partner platforms easily, securely and without any impact on the user experience. Not to toot our own horn, but we think it’s pretty great. Obviously, the kinds of data varies a lot from platform to platform — a crowdfunding site knows different things about its users than a small business accounting software. That’s why we’ve built Veda to be extremely flexible. Here’s a sampling of some of the things Veda can look at:


If you want to learn more about how our risk assessment system works, contact our API team at


Why we changed our withdrawal policy

We recently announced a new policy for how we collect information after processing a payment. In the interest of transparency, we thought it could use a little further explanation.

What You Need to Know

As of July 9th, all new merchants  will be required to either link a bank account or give us a place to settle money via recurring check within 30 days of accepting their first payment.  If a merchant does not do this in that time, then they will be unable to accept new payments until they do. Once the merchant gives us a way to settle funds, they’ll receive all the money  from the payments they’ve already accepted, and they’ll be able to accept new payments again as well.

This is actually more liberal than the policy we had originally considered, whereby we’d automatically refund all payments received by a merchant if they failed to link their bank account within 30 days. However, given the high potential for this policy to result in a poor user experience, we arrived at a compromise that would satisfy both WePay’s internal requirements and the needs of our customers.  

Even with the new change, WePay’s policies are still more user-friendly than those of most payments companies. Most require merchants to provide a ton of sensitive personal information before they can accept their first payment. WePay allows merchants to start accepting payments instantly, as long as they link their bank account within 30 days.

Why the Change

There’s some very good reasons why we’ve adopted this policy. To understand them, you have to realize that WePay is not a bank, and we’re not a digital wallet company. Rather, we’re a payment facilitator — we provide an easy way for money to get to from one person to another while minimizing fraud and regulatory risk for the platform that’s connecting those people.

Our mission is to allow the merchant to receive their payment as quickly as possible, and that includes settling the funds to the merchant’s bank account in a timely manner. Hence, the requirement that we have a bank account to settle to within 30 days.

By being laser-focused on that one goal, we can design without distraction — our focus is what allows us to create the best possible payments solution for platforms and their users. At the same time, we realize that providing a lot of information up front is hard for users and a major point of friction for our platform partners, who naturally want to design the most seamless user experience possible.

So that’s the compromise we hoped to strike with the new 30 day policy — it gets us the information we need in a timely manner, but it’s still flexible enough to provide our partners with the streamlined checkout process they’ve come to love from us.

We are, of course, constantly refining our policies to better serve our partners and their customers. If you have any questions or comments about the new policy and how it affects you, we want to hear them. Drop us an email at


LabStar Partners with WePay to Simplify Payments for Dental Labs

LabStar is a cloud-based software that dental laboratories use to run their businesses. The world of dental labs has recently become inordinately more complicated—with a host of technologies coming into their daily workflow. LabStar seeks to help labs simplify the running of their day-to-day business, with a simple pay-as-you-go model that helps labs handle everything from tracking orders to manufacturing, to HIPAA compliance, invoicing and customer support.

Because lab owners are artists and craftsmen, not technologists, LabStar puts incredible effort into making sure their software is intuitive and easy to use. They also offer the volume-based pricing in the industry with no click fees, license fees, upgrade fees, usage timers, or limitations on users.

When it came to choosing a payment partner, LabStar was understandably choosey. “We talked to over 20 companies. It was one of those projects we maybe got a little carried away with, but we’re glad we did,” said Jeff Noles, Founder and CEO of LabStar.

“There were numerous reason we chose WePay, but it ultimately came down to the fact that you were completely transparent about fees. With WePay, our customers know exactly what they will pay,” said Jeff Noles. These days, dental lab owners have a hypersensitivity to hidden fees. They’re stuck in a bit of a catch-22. The influx of technology into the dental lab industry has brought about a whole slew of solutions the lab owners have to use—that also have associated fees that aren’t either easy to understand or calculate. Like LabStar, WePay makes it easy and keeps it simple to understand the terms of a transaction. In addition, great service and ease of implementation factored into their choice of WePay.

The company in incredibly pleased with its decision. In fact, LabStar even wrote a blog post about their reasons for choosing WePay so their customers could see firsthand why they made the decision.